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Radically Inept
Monday, May 03, 2004
  Science Monday

The following articles were linked to via KurzweilAI.net.

Stop aging and get smarter?
KurzweilAI.net:
"Kurzweil proposes research programs to replace DNA, block bioterror viruses
KurzweilAI.net, April 30, 2004

Ray Kurzweil has proposed a nanobiotechnology research program to replace the cell nucleus and ribosome machinery with a nanocomputer and nanobot to prevent diseases and aging and another program to create defensive technologies against rogue designer viruses.

Kurzweil presented the ideas in a keynote at the recent 'Breakthrough Technologies for the World's Biggest Problems' conference on April 28, sponsored by the Arlington Institute.

The nucleus is basically a computer that stores the DNA genetic code and controls gene expression via RNA, messenger RNA, and ribosomes, which build amino acid sequences that get folded into proteins that control everything else."
Conveying the atomic
Research News : A Conveyor Belt for the Nano-Age:
"In a development that brings the promise of mass production to nanoscale devices, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory scientists have transformed carbon nanotubes into conveyor belts capable of ferrying atom-sized particles to microscopic worksites.

By applying a small electrical current to a carbon nanotube, they moved indium particles along the tube like auto parts on an assembly line. Their research, described in the April 29 issue of Nature, lays the groundwork for the high-throughput construction of atomic-scale optical, electronic, and mechanical devices that will power the burgeoning field of nanotechnology.

“We’re not transporting atoms one at a time anymore — it’s more like a hose,” says Chris Regan of Berkeley Lab’s Materials Sciences Division, who co-authored the article along with fellow Materials Sciences researchers Shaul Aloni, Ulrich Dahmen, Robert Ritchie, and Alex Zettl. Aloni, Regan, and Zettl are also scientists in the University of California at Berkeley’s Department of Physics, where much of the work was conducted.

The ability to shuttle a stream of particles to precise locations fills a void that has stymied the efficient assembly of nanostructures. For years, scientists have been able to simultaneously deliver millions of atoms to millions of sites simply by mixing chemicals. Although this fast technique has grown quite sophisticated, it remains far too blunt to build atomic-scale devices. On the other end of the spectrum is the ability to manipulate individual atoms, a feat that came of age in 1990 when IBM researchers spelled out the company logo by positioning 35 xenon atoms with a scanning tunneling microscope. Although precise, this technique is painstakingly slow, with no way to swiftly deliver atoms to the work area."
The benefits of genetically modified foods w/o the the negatives
Wired 12.05: Super Organics:
"But the quest for a longer-lasting tomato didn't end there. As the Flavr Savr was stumbling (Monsanto eventually abandoned it), Israeli scientist Nachum Kedar was quietly bringing a natural version to market. By crossbreeding beefsteak tomatoes, Kedar had arrived at a savory, high-yield fruit that would ripen on the vine and remain firm in transit. He found a marketing partner, which licensed the tomato and flooded the US market without any PR problems. The vine-ripened hybrid, now grown and sold worldwide under several brand names, owes its existence to Kedar's knowledge of the tomato genome. He didn't use genetic engineering. His fruit emerged from a process that's both more sophisticated and far less controversial.

Welcome to the world of smart breeding....[

]...How Smart Breeding Works

The mission: Develop rice that's resistant to bacterial blight and will thrive around the globe.

SEARCH Food scientists scour the rice gene bank, consisting of 84,000 seed types, in search of varieties with blight immunity.

INSERT MARKER Scientists extract DNA from selected varieties and tag the blight-immunity gene - previously identified by researchers - with a chemical dye.

CROSSBREED A network of researchers around the world cross disease-resistant varieties with thousands of local versions. With some plants, this means merely putting two varieties in a room. Self-pollinating rice requires manual pollen insertion.

ANALYZE The offspring are analyzed to detect the presence of the immunity gene. Those containing the gene are planted in a field.

TEST Mature plants are exposed to bacterial blight to confirm resistance. Those that don't die, and maintain desired traits from the local variety, are distributed. Unless

REPEAT Sometimes, the process reveals several genes responsible for a trait. Three genes confer resistance to different blight strains. In such cases, breeders repeat the crossbreeding until all genes are turned on.

END RESULT A rice plant with broad resistance to bacterial blight that will thrive in local conditions.
Now for something really different
Economist.com | Chaotic computing:
"QUANTUM computing (see article) is not the only game in town when it comes to creating a new computing paradigm. Speaking at the American Physical Society's annual March conference, William Ditto of the University of Florida told of his efforts to create a 'chaotic computer'. This is saner than it sounds. Chaos, in the mathematical sense, is not unpredictability: chaotic systems can behave in a predictable and reproducible way. The catch is that the evolution of a chaotic system depends very sensitively on its starting conditions, which leads in the long term to behaviour that is ultimately unpredictable. But by choosing those starting conditions carefully, and only letting the system evolve for a short time, Dr Ditto thinks he can harness chaos to be computationally powerful.

Dr Ditto proposes using 'chaotic elements' - which could be specific types of electric circuits, lasers or even neurons - to replace the logic gates that are the basic building blocks of conventional computers. The inputs to each chaotic element, as with a conventional logic element, are binary: that is, either 0 or 1. If the element outputs a value that exceeds a threshold that Dr Ditto chooses, then the result is a 1, while if it is less than that threshold, the result is a 0. This is exactly what happens in a conventional logic gate as well."

 
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